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Indigenous Group Brings "Canoe of Life" 6,000 Miles from Amazon to Paris to Call for Climate Action

December 11, 2015
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On Tuesday, as the sun rose in Paris, a delegation of indigenous people from Sarayaku, in the Ecuadorean Amazon, set out in a handmade, wooden canoe along the Villette Canal. The Kichwa people of Sarayaku have been fighting oil exploitation on their lands for many years; in 2012 they won a case at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against the Ecuadorean government for permitting oil drilling on their land. Democracy Now!'s Juan Carlos Dávila and Amy Littlefield were there as the Sarayaku launched their canoe after its 6,000-mile journey from the Amazon. "Those who are actually negotiating right now, they might not have to live with the consequences of climate change, but I will," Nina Gualinga, a Kichwa activist from Sarayaku, says of the COP21 negotiations. "Who are they to decide over my future, over my sister's future, over my children’s future?"


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We wrap up our broadcast with an action earlier this week. On Tuesday, as the sun rose in Paris, a delegation of indigenous people from Sarayaku, in the Ecuadorean Amazon, set out in a handmade, wooden canoe along the Villette Canal. The Kichwa people of Sarayaku have been fighting oil exploitation on their lands for many years. In 2012, they won a case at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against the Ecuadorean government for letting an Argentine oil company explore for oil on their land. This is the piece.

JOSÉ GUALINGA: [translated] For the first time in history, a canoe, that we call the "Canoe of Life," named after the hummingbird fish in our territory, a canoe from Sarayaku, from the Ecuadorean Amazon, has arrived here to Paris, France.

NINA GUALINGA: My name is Nina Gualinga, and I am here with a delegation from Sarayaku. And Sarayaku is situated in the Ecuadorean Amazon. And we have brought a canoe all the way to Paris, here to the COP, with a message of peace, of hope, and a proposal called Kawsak Sacha. That means "The Living Forest." And it is a proposal to make sure that nature’s rights are being respected, indigenous peoples’ rights are being respected, and also a way to combat climate change.

The whole community has been involved, pretty much. There’s one person who shapes the canoe, and then there are others also helping to burn it and things like that. And then you make like a big party. You gather all of your friends and family and community members to drag the canoe all the way from the mountain down to the river. We had to take it all the way to the nearest port, which is in Canelos, by canoe, so that took, I think, a day or so. And then, from Puyo, we had to take it to the capital of Ecuador, Quito, and then from Quito, on a plane—or from Guayaquil, maybe, to Paris. But first, it got stuck in Ecuador because of troubles with the flight, I think. And then it got stuck in customs here in Paris. So, it’s been quite hard to get it all the way here.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Could you talk about the negotiations here at the COP? And do you feel your voice is being heard inside the summit?

NINA GUALINGA: I think that indigenous peoples’ voices are the voices that should be heard. Indigenous people should be inside the actual negotiations, but we are not. Those who are actually negotiating right now, they might not have to live with the consequences of climate change, but I will. I will have to live with it. My sister, my little brother and my children, they’re all going to have to live with the consequences of climate change. And who are they to decide over my future, over my sister’s future, over my children’s future?

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Gualinga of the Sarayaku of the Ecuadorean Amazon, speaking to Democracy Now!'s Amy [Littlefield]. Special thanks to Mike Burke and to Carla Wills, to Nermeen Shaikh and to Deena Guzder, to Denis Moynihan. I'm Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! I’ll be speaking tonight at 9:00 at The Place to B here in Paris.


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